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How Mindfulness Can Improve Our Focus and Productivity

How Mindfulness Can Improve Our Focus and Productivity

Mindfulness has become a popular and fashionable activity in recent times. The act of focused awareness on the flow of the present moment. It brings us into the here and now so that we are conscious of what we are doing when we are doing it. It may seem both simple and obvious but when we focus our awareness on our thoughts we will find that we spend most of our day thinking about past and future events. Or if we are lucky enough, sitting around day dreaming rather than focusing on what matters.

Most people have a natural time perspective and their thoughts are dominated by either past, present or future events. What we don’t want is that past or future events dominating our present experiences or that we live too much in the present that we don’t learn from past experiences nor plan for the future. So like most things in life we seek balance.

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The practice of mindfulness teaches us to become aware of our thoughts and the present moment. It is a habit we need to nurture because our natural tendency is to stray from the here and how to tomorrow, next week or next month. When we practice mindfulness we keep calling back our wandering mind to rest on the current moment.

Some of the benefits of Mindfulness

Below are some of the many benefits of mindfulness and how they can improve our focus and productivity.

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Greater Focus

One of our biggest challenges to getting things done is the distraction of the mind, while we try to get one job done, our mind reminds us of ten others that still need doing. We quickly check our email because our mind alerts us to the fact there may be unread emails in our inbox and if the remain unchecked we may be missing the fact that the Earth is shortly to be demolished by an alien construction crew!

As this thought comes into our head we then remember that our copy of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was lent to a friend so maybe we should shoot over to Amazon and buy a fresh copy. Mindfulness jumps in the way of all these distractions of the mind and says “Hey, come back to the present moment, get what needs to be done, done!”

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More Effective Planning

On the outset, mindfulness may appear to conflict with the concept of planning but in fact they complement each other greatly. Planning allows us to practice mindfulness by reducing the burdens that the mind needs to worry about. If we are to schedule and plan all our responsibilities and duties we have less to distract us from our daily tasks. When applying mindfulness techniques planning can be a much more effective process and not be delayed by the disruptions of other activities and ideas.

Stress Reduction

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A lot of stress is brought about by imagining negative future scenarios, if we were to live completely in the present we would not suffer from this stress. But the human brain has the ability to cast itself into the future, so for now we are stuck with this capability, and will have to learn how to manage it. Stressing about future scenarios that haven’t happened is a pointless habit; mindfulness can teach us how to redirect these negative and worrying thoughts back to the present moment and remind us that the future hasn’t happened and so far is not controlling our present circumstances. Mindfulness can also help with the insomnia that often accompanies stressful situations.

Whenever we lie awake at night thinking about the poor sales figures or the bills that need to be paid, we need to bring our focus back to our physical body and the fact we are lying comfortable and warm in bed and the things that are occupying our minds have not happened yet.

Take this moment to remember that the future hasn’t happened, the past is gone and the present, the wonderful present, is all we have and all that is guaranteed. Make sure you are part of each moment that you live and experience to gift that is the Now.

More by this author

Ciara Conlon

Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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Published on July 15, 2019

10 Simple Strategies to Make Your Life Better Starting Today

10 Simple Strategies to Make Your Life Better Starting Today

Habits are an important part of the direction you take your life, and — as I’ll share with you shortly — there are certain daily habits you can adopt right away that are guaranteed to improve your life.

Think back to when you were just six or seven years old…

At that age you probably didn’t have many habits. But, as the years went by, you picked up more and more good and bad habits.

You may not have thought about it before, but habit forming never really stops.

That’s why it’s never too late to change your habits and transform your life.

So, if you feel burdened by your bad habits, start kicking them into shape by replacing them with these 10 positive, life-changing strategies:

1. Go to Bed a Little Earlier and Wake up Earlier 

Starting tonight, get yourself to bed 30 minutes earlier than usual. And, then make sure you get up tomorrow morning 30 minutes earlier, too. This small change can have a BIG impact on your day. 

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Instead of furiously rushing in the morning to get ready for work, the extra time will give you a golden opportunity to start your day off on the right note. You can drink a smoothie while sitting on your porch, spend 10 minutes exercising and stretching, and still have time to read a few pages of an inspiring book.

2. Be Grateful for the Good Things in Your Life 

Setbacks and obstacles are inevitable in life. But, with a positive mindset, you’ll be able to overcome most of these. And, when you do, you’ll boost your self-confidence. 

This is something you can definitely be grateful for. 

However, if worst-case scenarios are playing out in your life, then sometimes, to stay strong, you’ll need to keep your mind on the good things that are happening to you. For example, your relationship with your partner might be crumbling, but your career is continuously getting stronger. It’d be easy to feel downtrodden and miserable about your relationship problems —  but, it would be much healthier to keep your mind and gratitude on these things that are going well, such as your career.

3. Drink Water All Day Every Day 

I’m sure you’ve heard the advice of drinking at least eight glasses of water a day, but are you following that advice? If not, you’re robbing your body and mind of essential hydration. 

With the right amount of water intake a day, you’ll be amazed how good you feel — and how good you look!

4. Take 15 Minutes to Set Goals for the Day, and Then Tackle Them One by One 

This strategy will put your life into a new stratosphere! And, it’s very simple to do. 

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Simply spend 15 minutes in the morning (either at home or at work) planning what you need and want to achieve during the rest of the day. Once you’ve listed your tasks, the next step is to put them into order of priority. 

For instance, you have three things to do: catch up with your emails, write a project update, and prepare a briefing for your CEO. It’s best if you put these in order of importance. In this example, your emails can probably wait until you’ve created your CEO brief and updated your project documentation.

5. Turn Off Your Cell Phone (or Put it on Airplane Mode) When You’re Focusing 

A 2012 study found that even looking at a cell phone or feeling it vibrate in your pocket can significantly distract focus and reduce your ability to complete complex tasks.[1]

It’s no surprise really, as our thoughts are subconsciously drawn towards checking our phones when they’re switched on. It’s a bad habit — but one that most of us have. However, when you need 100% focus (like I do when writing my articles), then switching your phone off, or at least putting it into airplane mode, will free your mind and supercharge your focus. Try it and see!

6. Walk as Much as You Can 

Have you noticed that most people’s lives are sedentary? They drive to work, sit in front of a screen all day, then drive home and binge on the latest Netflix series. It’s no wonder there’s a growing epidemic of obesity and mental health issues. 

Our bodies are made to move — so we should move them! This can be as simple as walking up the stairs to your office instead of taking the elevator, and going out for a walk around the block at lunchtime. In the evening, instead of arriving home and crashing on the sofa; spend 20 to 30 minutes walking around your block.

When you make these things a habit, you’ll be amazed by how much better you feel. You’ll have less stress — and more energy.

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7. Be Mindful of Your Surroundings

How often do you stop, think and appreciate the “here and now”? I’m guessing not very often. But, I understand why. Modern life is demanding and fast-paced. There’s precious little time to appreciate the small things. 

But, if you want to live a healthy and happy life, you must break out of this trap. You can do this by allocating 15 to 30 minutes each day for mindful meditation. This could be in a park, in your garden, or even in your lounge. The trick is to focus 100% on your surroundings. 

For example, if you’re outside, watch how the leaves on the trees blow around in the wind. By keeping your focus on this movement, you’ll clear your mind from your usual stresses and strains. This will give you brain a much-needed break. And, as well as improving your mental health; you’ll find your creativity gets a boost, too.

8. Ask for Help When You Need It 

No one can know or do everything. Which is why you shouldn’t be embarrassed to delegate tasks to others when needed, ask questions when you don’t have the answers, and work with partners and colleagues to clarify intentions. 

When I first set up Lifehack, I tried to do everything myself: blog writing, website creation, marketing, financial planning, etc. However, I quickly learned that it was much better to hire some help. Not only did this inject some fresh ideas and inspiration into Lifehack — it also made the whole operation way more enjoyable!

9. Practice Self Care 

Are you looking after yourself as well as you should? If not, then take steps to improve your diet, exercise more, and to speak to yourself with encouraging words and thoughts. 

The latter suggestion is often overlooked. But how you speak to yourself determines how you feel, what you believe, and what you achieve.

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10. Embrace Learning 

You cannot transform your life without learning something new. That’s because the process of change forces you to adapt. But, many people stop learning as they get older, as they find the learning process boring and bothersome. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. It can be fun and rewarding. 

Whether you decide to learn to play guitar or study the basics of accounting — embrace learning, and begin changing your world for the better.

I’m sure you’ll agree that these 10 strategies are simple enough for you to start putting them into action in your life. (I suggest you begin today!) 

Nevertheless, you’ll probably need to use some extra willpower for the first 30 days or so, as this is the typical length of time it takes to create a new habit. After that, these strategies will be part of your day-to-day life, and you won’t need to think about having to do them. In other words, they’ll have become habitual actions.

If you need any further encouragement to get started with the 10 strategies, then consider this:

Even just adopting one of the strategies can turn the tide in your favor. But, when you implement all 10, you’ll create an unstoppable trend towards success, health and happiness.

So start making your life better — today!

Featured photo credit: Javier Garcia via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Deborah R. Tindell and Robert W. Bohlander, Wilkes University: The Use and Abuse of Cell Phones and Text Messaging in the Classroom: A Survey of College Students

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